'Slight Rebound' For Uranium Price In First Week Of May

'Slight Rebound' for Uranium Price in First Week of May

Editor's note: This article has been updated since publication to more accurately reflect the current uranium spot price.

The uranium spot price may have held its ground moving into April, but as the month wore on it dipped to $38.25 per pound of U3O8. The price slipped even further last week, and on May 4 recorded its largest one-week fall since November 2014.

Fortunately for uranium fans there was some brighter news towards the end of last week. TradeTech notes that the U3O8 spot indicator "exhibited signs of a slight rebound ... and even showed some strengthening as the week came to a close." Specifically, the uranium spot price ended Friday up $0.50, at $36.

The long-term uranium price remains largely unchanged and last week clocked in at $49 per pound of U3O8. However, both Raymond James and Haywood Securities have pointed to rumors that a non-US utility will enter the market and request roughly 9 million pounds of U3O8 for delivery from 2017 to 2026.

China starts nuclear

Last week, China started construction of its first "third generation" nuclear reactor. The ACP1000 reactor was developed by China National Nuclear, and is designed to extract more energy from uranium fuel than previous technologies, Tuoitre News reported.

The reactor is among several other "third generation" reactors currently under construction, and China National Nuclear's general manager, Qian Zhimin, told reporters last week that the project is "very important for our nuclear going-global strategy."

Indeed, the reactor is seen as a product of independent innovation, and is a stepping stone in the Asian country's plans to take its nuclear technology global. As Neutron Bytes noted last week, it's full steam ahead for two giant rival state-owned nuclear firms in China that are aiming to "achieve success with exports and increased market share of the restarted domestic reactor construction program."

Looking at the bigger picture, it seems Australia is in line to reap the benefits of Asia's nuclear endeavors. With nearly US$800 billion in new reactors under construction in Asia — primarily in China and India, where demand is significantly increasing — the nuclear boom coming from Asia is sure to shake up the uranium market once again, and perhaps set prices moving.

New reactor design approved

Also making strides on the nuclear power front was the United States. Last week, the US National Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved DTE Energy's combined construction and operation licence for Fermi 3 — that's the first construction licence awarded to GE Hitachi's Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design, World Nuclear News reported.

DTE Energy's application for the license was submitted in 2008, before the Fukushima accident. According to World Nuclear News, the conditions imposed on the "licence address the regulator's post-Fukushima requirements for mitigating strategies, spent fuel pool instrumentation and emergency preparedness plans and procedures."

The news outlet notes that the GE Hitachi's reactor includes passive safety features that enable it to cool itself without the need for external electricity or human intervention. The unit also uses fewer pumps and mechanical drives than other reactors with active safety systems. That, according to the company, means that the reactor "offers the lowest projected operating, maintenance and staffing costs in the nuclear industry on a per kilowatt basis."

"With this license, DTE Energy now possesses the most diverse, comprehensive slate of options to plan for Michigan's energy future," Steven Kurmas, DTE Energy's president and COO, said in a press release, adding, "[t]he potential of additional nuclear energy gives us the option of reliable, base-load, generation that does not emit greenhouse gases."

All that said, it is important to note that DTE Energy has yet to make a final decision on whether or not to build the reactor.